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Everton v Spurs, 30.01.08


Referee: - Mr. A. Marriner

Attendance: - 35,840

Everton (4-4-2):- Howard; Neville (Capt.), Jagielka, Lescott, Valente; Arteta, Fernandes, Carsley, Baines; Johnson, Anichebe (sub Vaughan, 71)

Subs not used: - Wessels; Stubbs; Anderson, Van Der Meyde

Booked: - Valente (foul on Lennon)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Chimbonda, Woodgate, Huddlestone, Gunter (sub Boateng, 62); Lennon, Jenas, O’Hara, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (Capt)

Subs not used: - Robinson; Rocha, Lee; Defoe

Booked: - Woodgate

There was little to savour about this match last night, apart from the immaculate performance of Spurs debutant, Jonathan Woodgate. Without doubt, Woodgate is a cultured, quality player who seems able to find himself time on the ball, reads the game perfectly, and lets little, if anything pass him by. Provided they can keep him fit, Spurs will be a much firmer defensive side with this man at the centre of defence. That defence last night featured three changes from Sunday’s game at Old Trafford with the introduction of Gunter at left back, and the return of Chimbonda.

Arguably, there was more activity from Spurs in yesterday’s transfer window, than on the field of play last night. The signing of right back Alan Hutton was confirmed, as was the sale of Wayne Routledge. It seems that we will be signing Hertha Berlin’s left back – Gilberto, so there could be more changes yet to come in the Spurs defence. Considering the transfer window and the accompanying rumours, it was perhaps a surprise to see Chimbonda play, and Boateng on the bench. In fact, when Boateng replaced Gunter after 62 minutes, and Jamie O’Hara once again switched to left back (to excellent effect), Spurs looked stronger in the midfield and enjoyed more of the possession. Whilst neither goalkeeper was sorely exercised last night, Spurs looked the more likely winners towards the end of the game.

Everton were surely there for the taking last night. They had three players missing in Africa (Yakubu, Yobo and Pienaar) and two suspended (Hibbert and Cahill). However, those who did represent the Everton Blue presented a gritty and determined opponent, taking advantage of Spurs’ reluctance to support Keane and Berbatov at the front. Spurs were also often guilty of the ill-considered clearance from defence, and with the absence of Tainio, Jenas did not get forward as much as he has recently. Malbranque was very closely marked, and did not have the impact he usually presents.

A good crowd waited anxiously for an event of note, and it was 21 minutes before I noted any significant event. The ever-faithful Spurs support crowed about going to Wembley, and were soon chanting “Johnny Woodgate”’s name as they quickly recognised his skill and impact at the back. Woodgate’s last match was also against Everton on New Year’s Day, when Middlesbrough lost 2-0 at Everton, but none was to pass him on this occasion!

That first action of note came from a shot by Leighton Baines – playing on the left side of midfield – and his effort went outside Cerny’s right post. Then Spurs responded and Aaron Lennon took the ball deep, and crossed where Steed Malbranque juggled the ball with his back to goal, ultimately trying an overhead kick, which Tim Howard saved comfortably.

Baines had another half-chance on the edge of the Spurs box, which was blocked, and the home crowd were starting to vocalise about their chances. They were by now getting excited about Andy Johnson’s antics in the area, with his predilection for falling over at the slightest opportunity. Mind you, Spurs also tried the tactic at the other end in the second half, through Berbatov and Malbranque, but Mr. Marriner was having none of it. Mr. Marriner was quite lenient really and did not get his notebook out till the second half, thus allowing Everton’s ultra-close marking and tough tackling approach.

Cerny had a save to make after 27 minutes, as Johnson latched onto a cross from the right and hit a quick shot. Jonhson tried one of his appeals after 33 minutes, when firstly he looked offside as he received a chipped ball, and then he went down all too easily under Huddlestone’s challenge. Huddlestone once again gave a competent performance next to Woodgate. The suspended Michael Dawson might not win automatic re-instatement on Saturday, when perhaps Ledley King will play against United. The last chance of note before the break came from an adventurous 35 yard free kick by Arteta, that sailed over the bar.

Arteta came closer to either scoring or providing a goal two minutes after the break, when he received from Johnson and hit a cross/shot from the left across the goal in front of the keeper, but past any danger. Malbranque had a shot blocked at the other end, then Berbatov gave Keane a chance, but his shot was also held by Howard. Keane was often the more advanced of the strikers, but he and Berbatov were too often isolated, and then failed to read each other’s passes or actions sometimes. It was Keane who headed on a Cerny clearance for Berbatov who ran into the area, and fell into the defender rather than the other way round, so any appeal was rightly turned down.

Spurs had a panic at the back after a Jenas failed pass which led to a chance for Johnson, whose shot was half stopped by Cerny, then cleared by Woodgate who was covering. Gunter was replaced by Boateng, and Jamie O’Hara resumed his left back role that he had fulfilled so well on Sunday against Ronaldo (who scored two goals again tonight for United). Everton did a like for like swap with James Vaughan replacing Anichebe, and whilst the home side continued with their 4-4-2 and had one or two corners towards the end, which again led to expectant home roars, it was Spurs who played with more and more confidence on the ball. Malbranque went down in the area, after a ball from Berbatov, but once again it was no go with the appeal, and the stalemate was preserved.

If only Spurs had demonstrated the confidence on the ball earlier in the game, perhaps they would have secured all three points. A point away from home to a team that remains in the top four, after Liverpool’s loss and Man City’s draw at Derby, has to be considered a satisfaction though, and now we look forward to revenge against top of the table Manchester United on Saturday.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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